While shyness is not considered a disorder, extreme degrees of shyness can be debilitating and distressing. When this occurs, it often manifests as Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), which is an anxiety disorder characterized by a fear of being evaluated by others in social situations. Social anxiety often occurs in situations in which the person is required to interact with, perform for, or be observed by others. In many instances, individuals with SAD especially fear showing signs of anxiety in front of others.
Common manifestation of SAD include anxiety about giving speeches, engaging in conversation with strangers, interviewing for jobs, meeting romantic partners, urinating in public restrooms, taking exams, and speaking up during important meetings. In some cases, individuals with SAD are anxious in most social situations.
As seen with other anxiety disorders, SAD is typically accompanied by a host of avoidance behaviors, such as turning down invitations to social functions because of a fear of evaluation.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the gold-standard psychological treatment for SAD. It consists of psycho-education, exposure exercises, cognitive restructuring, and more. Group formats of CBT for SAD can be particularly effective.
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